Algeria

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Template:Infobox Country The People's Democratic Republic of Algeria (Arabic: الجمهورية الجزائرية الديمقراطية الشعبية) , or Algeria (Arabic: الجزائر), is a presidential state in north Africa, and the second largest country on the African continent, Sudan being the largest. It is bordered by Tunisia in the northeast, Libya in the east, Niger in the southeast, Mali and Mauritania in the southwest, and Morocco as well as a few kilometers of its annexed territory, Western Sahara, in the west. Constitutionally, it is defined as an Islamic, Arab, and Amazigh (Berber) country. The name Algeria is derived from the name of the city of Algiers, from the Arabic word al-jazā’ir, which translates as the islands, referring to the four islands which lay off that city's coast until becoming part of the mainland in 1525.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Algeria

Algeria has been inhabited by Berbers (or Amazigh) since at least 10,000 BC. From 1000 BC on, the Carthaginians became an influence on them, establishing settlements along the coast. Berber kingdoms began to emerge, most notably Numidia, and seized the opportunity offered by the Punic Wars to become independent of Carthage, only to be taken over soon after by the Roman Republic in 200 BC. As the western Roman Empire collapsed, the Berbers became independent again in much of the area, while the Vandals took over parts until later expelled by the generals of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian I. The Byzantine Empire then retained a precarious grip on the east of the country until the coming of the Arabs in the 8th century.

File:Roman Arch of Trajan at Thamugadi (Timgad), Algeria 04966r.jpg
Roman arch of Trajan at Thamugadi (Timgad), Algeria

After some decades of fierce resistance under leaders such as Kusayla and Kahina, the Berbers adopted Islam en masse, but almost immediately expelled the Caliphate from Algeria, establishing an Ibadi state under the Rustamids. Having converted the Kutama of Kabylie to its cause, the Shia Fatimids overthrew the Rustamids, and conquered Egypt. They left Algeria and Tunisia to their Zirid vassals; when the latter rebelled and adopted Sunnism, they sent in a populous Arab tribe, the Banu Hilal, to weaken them, thus incidentally initiating the Arabization of the countryside. The Almoravids and Almohads, Berber dynasties from the west founded by religious reformers, brought a period of relative peace and development; however, with the Almohads' collapse, Algeria became a battleground for their three successor states, the Algerian Zayyanids, Tunisian Hafsids, and Moroccan Merinids. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Spain started attacking and taking over many coastal cities, prompting some to seek help from the Ottoman Empire.

Algeria was brought into the Ottoman Empire by Khair ad-Din and his brother Aruj, who established Algeria's modern boundaries in the north and made its coast a base for the corsairs; their privateering peaked in Algiers in the 1600s. Piracy on American vessels in the Mediterranean resulted in the First and Second Barbary War with the United States. On the pretext of a slight to their consul, the French invaded Algiers in 1830; however, intense resistance from such personalities as Emir Abdelkader, Ahmed Bey and Fatma N'Soumer made for a slow conquest of Algeria, not technically completed until the early 1900s when the last Tuareg were conquered.

File:Constantine Algerien 002.jpg
Constantine, Algeria 1840

Meanwhile, however, the French had made Algeria an integral part of France, a status that would end only with the collapse of the Fourth Republic. Tens of thousands of settlers from France, Italy, Spain, and Malta moved in to farm the Algerian coastal plain and occupy the most prized parts of Algeria's cities, benefiting from the French government's confiscation of communally held land. People of European descent in Algeria (the so-called pieds-noirs), as well as the native Algerian Jews, were full French citizens starting from the end of the 19th century; by contrast, the vast majority of Muslim Algerians (even veterans of the French army) remained outside of French law, possessing neither French citizenship nor the right to vote. Algeria's social fabric was stretched to breaking point during this period: literacy dropped massively, while land confiscation uprooted much of the population.

In 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) launched the guerrilla Algerian War of Independence; after nearly a decade of urban and rural warfare, they succeeded in pushing France out in 1962. Most of the 1,025,000 pieds-noirs, as well as 91,000 harkis (pro-French Muslim Algerians serving in the French Army), together forming about 10% of the population of Algeria in 1962, fled Algeria for France in just a few months in the middle of that year.

Algeria's first president, the FLN leader Ahmed Ben Bella, was overthrown by his former ally and defense minister, Houari Boumédiènne in 1965. Under Ben Bella the government had already become increasingly socialist and dictatorial, and this trend continued throughout Boumedienne's government; however, Boumedienne relied much more heavily on the army, and reduced the sole legal party to a merely symbolic role. Agriculture was collectivised, and a massive industrialization drive launched. Oil extraction facilities were nationalized and this increased the state's wealth, especially after the 1973 oil crisis, but the Algerian economy became increasingly dependent on oil, bringing hardship when the price collapsed in the 1980s. In foreign policy Algeria was a member and leader of the 'non-aligned' nations. A dispute with Morocco over the Western Sahara nearly led to war. Dissent was rarely tolerated, and the state's control over the media and the outlawing of political parties other than the FLN was cemented in the repressive constitution of 1976. Boumédienne died in 1978, but the rule of his successor, Chadli Bendjedid, was little more open. The state took on a strongly bureaucratic character and corruption was widespread.

The modernization drive brought considerable demographic changes to Algeria. Village traditions underwent significant change as urbanization increased, new industries emerged, agriculture was substantially reduced, and education, a rarity in colonial times, was extended nationwide, raising the literacy rate from less than 10% to over 60%. Improvements in healthcare led to a dramatic increase in the birthrate (7-8 children per mother) which had two consequences: a very youthful population, and a housing crisis. The new generation struggled to relate to the cultural obsession with the war years and two conflicting protest movements developed: left-wingers, including Berber identity movements, and Islamic 'intégristes'. Both protested against one-party rule but also clashed with each other in universities and on the streets during the 1980s. Mass protests from both camps in autumn 1988 forced Benjedid to concede the end of one-party rule, and elections were announced for 1991.

In December 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of the country's first multiparty elections. The military then canceled the second round, forced then-president Bendjedid to resign, and banned the Islamic Salvation Front. The ensuing conflict engulfed Algeria in the violent Algerian Civil War. More than 100,000 people were killed, often in unprovoked massacres of civilians. The question of who was responsible for these massacres remains controversial among academic observers; many were claimed by the Armed Islamic Group. After 1998, the war waned, and by 2002 the main guerrilla groups had either been destroyed or surrendered, taking advantage of an amnesty program, though sporadic fighting continued in some areas. Elections resumed in 1995, and in 1999, after a series of short-term leaders representing the military, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the current president, was elected. The issue of Berber language and identity increased in significance, particularly after the extensive Kabyle protests of 2001 and the near-total boycott of local elections in Kabylie; the government responded with concessions including naming of Tamazight (Berber) as a national language and teaching it in schools.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Algeria

The head of state is the President of the republic, who is elected to a 5-year term, renewable once. Algeria has universal suffrage. The President is the head of the Council of Ministers and of the High Security Council. He appoints the Prime Minister who is also the head of government. The Prime Minister appoints the Council of Ministers.

The Algerian parliament is bicameral, consisting of a lower chamber, the National People's Assembly (APN), with 380 members and an upper chamber, the Council of Nation, with 144 members. The APN is elected every 5 years.

Throughout the 1960's, Algeria supported many independence movements in sub-Saharan Africa, and was a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement. While it shares much of its history and cultural heritage with neighbouring Morocco, the two countries have had somewhat hostile relations with each other since Algeria's independence. This is due to two reasons: Morocco's claim to portions of eastern Algeria around Touat (which led to the Sand war in 1963), and Algeria's support for the Polisario, a clandestine armed group seeking independence for the Moroccan-ruled Western Sahara, which it hosts within its borders in the city of Tindouf. Tensions between Algeria and Morocco, as well as issues relating to the Algerian Civil War, have put great obstacles in the way of tightening the Maghreb Arab Union, nominally established in 1989 but with little practical weight, with its coastal neighbors.

Provinces

Main article: Provinces of Algeria

Algeria is divided into 48 wilayas (provinces):-

Geography

Main article: Geography of Algeria

File:Hoggar3.jpg
The Hoggar Mountains

Most of the coastal area is hilly, sometimes even mountainous, and there are few good harbours. The area just south of the coast, known as the Tell, is fertile. Further south is the Atlas mountain range and the Sahara desert. Algiers, Oran and Constantine are the main cities.

Algeria's climate is arid and hot, although the coastal climate is mild, and the winters in the mountainous areas can be severe. Algeria is prone to sirocco, a hot dust- and sand-laden wind especially common in summer.

See also: Extreme points of Algeria

Economy

Main article: Economy of Algeria

The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 60% of budget revenues, 30% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second largest gas exporter; it ranks 14th in Petroleum reserves.

Algeria’s financial and economic indicators improved during the mid-1990s, in part because of policy reforms supported by the IMF and debt rescheduling from the Paris Club. Algeria’s finances in 2000 and 2001 benefited from an increase in oil prices and the government’s tight fiscal policy, leading to a large increase in the trade surplus, record highs in foreign exchange reserves, and reduction in foreign debt. The government's continued efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector has had little success in reducing high unemployment and improving living standards. In 2001, the government signed an Association Treaty with the European Union that will eventually lower tariffs and increase trade.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Algeria

About 90% of the Algerians live in the northern, coastal area; the minority who inhabit the Sahara Desert are mainly concentrated in oases, although some 1.5 million remain nomadic or partly nomadic.

Ninety-nine percent of the population is classified ethnically as Arab/Berber, and religiously as Muslim; other religions are restricted to extremely small groups, mainly of foreigners. Europeans account for less than 1%.

Most Algerians are considered to be of Berber origins, but are Arab by language, and usually by identity. The 20% or so who speak Berber languages are divided into several ethnic groups, notably Kabyle (the largest) in the mountainous north-central area, Chaoui in the eastern Atlas Mountains, Mozabites in the M'Zab valley, and Tuareg in the far south.

Language

Main article: Languages of Algeria

The official language is Arabic, spoken natively in dialectal form ("Darja") by some 80% of the population; the other 20% or so speak Berber (Tamazight), officially a national language. French is widely known from schools, but is very rare as a native language.

Culture

File:Algiers mosque.jpg
mosque in Algiers

Main article: Culture of Algeria

Modern Algerian literature, split between Arabic and French, has been strongly influenced by the country's recent history. Famous novelists of the 20th century include Mohammed Dib and Kateb Yacine, while Assia Djebar is widely translated. Important novelists of the 1980s included Rachid Mimouni, later vice-president of Amnesty International, and Tahar Djaout, murdered by an Islamist group in 1993 for his secularist views. As early as Roman times, Apuleius, born in Mdaourouch, was native to what would become Algeria.

In philosophy and the humanities, Malek Bennabi and Frantz Fanon are noted for their thoughts on decolonization, while Augustine of Hippo was born in Tagaste (about 60 miles from the present day city of Annaba), and Ibn Khaldun, though born in Tunis, wrote the Muqaddima while staying in Algeria.

Algerian culture has been strongly influenced by Islam, the main religion. The works of the Sanusi family in precolonial times, and of Emir Abdelkader and Sheikh Ben Badis in colonial times, are widely noted.

The Algerian musical genre best known abroad is raï, a pop-flavored, opinionated take on folk music, featuring international stars such as Khaled and Cheb Mami. However, in Algeria itself the older, highly verbal chaabi style remains more popular, with such stars as El Hadj El Anka or Dahmane El Harrachi, while the tuneful melodies of Kabyle music, exemplified by Idir, Ait Menguellet, or Lounès Matoub, have a wide audience. For more classical tastes, Andalusi music, brought from Al-Andalus by Morisco refugees, is preserved in many older coastal towns.

In painting, Mohammed Khadda and M'hemed Issiakhem are notable in recent years.

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